Photo from DA RFO MIMAROPA Facebook Page

A Palaweño entrepreneur representing the MIMAROPA Region recently emerged as champion in the national video promotion contest showcasing the contributions of young agriculture entrepreneurs in the industry during the Youth Agriculture Summit 2022 held by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

John Vicente Gastanes, 30, won the grand prize on Friday, promoting his FarmKonek, which helps organize a community of farmers and assists in marketing their products at the right buying price.

The video was produced through the efforts of DA-MIMAROPA and the City Agriculture Office (CAO), where products from partner farmers in the West Coast and Barangay Inagawan were shown. Gastanes said the material also highlights the work of other young farmers who also envision improving the system in agriculture.

“Nakakatuwa kasi maraming nagsasabi na agriculture is one of the most invested in terms of government funds. A lot of the performance sa GDP natin, ‘di siya nakikita na nagsa-shine. Kahit malaki ang pondo ng agriculture, mataas pa rin ang poverty rate. There was an increase in GDP pero mas mataas pa rin ‘yong sa IT sector, BPO,” Gastanes said.

“When we submitted our video, it was more than just agriculture. It is about innovation, young agriculture, the government, community, the grassroots, the whole ecosystem, na na-realize natin na ang hinahanap nating economy of scale, kaya pala ‘yan,” he added.

It’s important to promote an inclusive business model like how FarmKonek does business, he said, because it shows how the community, ecosystem, partners, and youth work together to make things happen.

Gastanes said he will share a portion of the cash prize amounting to P25,000 with the team who produced the video and to support the continuous advocacy of FarmKonek. The award was also an additional motivation for the company to believe in its vision and give pride to local talents.

The video may also create opportunities after their advocacy was shown nationwide through social media platforms, he added. It will also help Filipinos realize that Palawan is also capable of good agricultural production aside from its tourism product.

“Actually, we’re so thankful. Sabi nga nila, we were able to set a high standard for next year. Hindi ko sinasabing bad ‘yon, actually good. At least there is a good benchmark for what people will do at the next summit. Iyon ang nakikita ko na privilege na nakuha namin is really, kaunting money, of course, and the privilege lang to be the voice of a young (agripreneur),” he said.

“I can imagine someday, it will show na kaya pala nila ‘yong massive production ng agricultural products considering we’re in BIMP-EAGA. It shows na kaya rin nila ang production, mamaya possible tayo na rin ang food security capital ng neighboring ASEAN countries like Malaysia,” he added.

Palawan is capable of agro-industrialization, Gastanes added, and expressed hopes that it could invite more investors to look into more innovative and data-driven investments. Investors in manufacturing agricultural products will also help Palawan advance in agriculture even if there are other challenges similar to the pandemic.

His company, FarmKonek, wants to work with businesses in Manila to get agricultural products to different parts of the country and even around the world.

“Iyon na lang, makita na lang na pwede pala. Akala namin kasi puro dagat lang sa Palawan. More than agritourism, I think it’s more of the potential. I believe we’re always in to tourism but in agro-industrial, hindi iyan nalo-look into. But that’s one of the most privileged sectors na dapat bigyan ng attention, na excited ako,” he said.

“At least nakikita na pwede pala ang mga lupa talaga dyan tamnan. It’s just a matter of trust and co-creation with the community, work with the local government, ‘wag tayong skeptical lagi or with the national. It’s not a perfect ecosystem, don’t get me wrong. But the video will show you na pwede pala,” he added.